Scotchman Peak

Located near the town of Clark Fork, Idaho, Scotchman Peak is the high point of Bonner County.  Easy access and a good trail all the way to the top make it one of the most popular hikes in the area.  In 2015, I was denied an attempt to climb Scotchman Peak due to wildfire closures, but there were no such restrictions when I returned with Zosia Zgolak on 4 August 2018.

After camping the previous night at a nearby boat launch, Zosia and I enjoyed a relaxing breakfast before driving to the trailhead.  The following excellent trailhead directions (with distances converted to metric) are courtesy of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness website:

Take Highway 200 to Clark Fork, Idaho, and then turn north at the Chevron Station onto Main Street.  Follow this road past Clark Fork High School and then around a bend to the right.  At the intersection with Lightning Creek Road, set your trip odometer to 0.  Donít turn here; keep going straight on Mosquito Creek Road.

At 0.9 kilometres, keep left at the fork.  At 3.3 kilometres, turn right onto FR 2295.  There wonít be a sign marking it as FR 2295.  Itís marked as such on the map.  Youíll know youíre heading into the right neighborhood when you pass the sign telling you youíre entering grizzly bear habitat.

At 4.9 kilometres, turn left onto FR 2294.  Again, there wonít be a sign marking it as FR 2294.  Youíll see a small sign pointing toward Trail 65.  At 5.7 kilometres, turn left onto FR 2294A.  Yet again, there wonít be a sign marking it as FR 2294A, and again, youíll see a small sign pointing toward Trail 65.  Follow FR 2294A for another 3.5 kilometres to the end of the road where youíll find the trailhead just beyond two portable toilets.

Right from the start, we settled into a long and steady climb up the well-maintained trail which essentially winds up the forested southwest ridge of Scotchman Peak.  Although the trail is long, the grade is consistently moderate which makes for very pleasant hiking.  An abundance of saskatoon berries and huckleberries slowed our ascent somewhat but not as much as what we would encounter higher up the mountain.  About two-thirds of the way up, the trail makes a couple of sweeping switchbacks across open slopes, and although Lake Pend Oreille is normally visible from here, we were initially unaware of the lake due to the thick haze from distant wildfires.

 Goooooooooooood morning, Idaho!

Across Clark Fork (river), the morning sun rises over the shoulder of Scotchman Peak (left).


First one on the trail for today! Zosia starts up the trail to Scotchman Peak.
We found ripe huckleberries higher up. Ripe saskatoon berries are abundant along the lower sections of the trail.
Still no distant views because of all the haze from wildfires. Trees begin to thin out higher up the mountain.
Near tree line, we passed a curious sign warning hikers not to harass or feed mountain goats in the area.  As if on cue, three mountain goats--a father, a mother and their baby--suddenly appeared above us.  We gave them a wide berth, and initially, the father and mother both descended past us as if to enter the forest below.  The baby was hesitant to follow its parents and seemed more curious about Zosia and me.  We eventually gave up waiting for the baby to pass us and started hiking up the trail where we quickly encountered two more goats grazing just off to the side.  These two seemed unconcerned about our presence, and we stopped for a lengthy break here to observe them while ogling the impressive northwest face of Scotchman Peak.  Meanwhile, the baby goat had by now circled around us even though we had left it a clear passage to rejoin its parents.  The parents themselves soon came back up to rendezvous with their baby, and Zosia and I were now surrounded by goats.  Perhaps the sign we saw earlier has it backwards and should instead be warning about goats that may harass hikers!  After being entertained at length by all the mountain goats, Zosia and I finally left them to resume our ascent to the top.
They're both very cute! Zosia snaps a photograph of a baby goat.
Nom, nom, nom... Two goats are busy munching away beside the trail.
Wow! I wasn't expecting this! The northwest face of Scotchman Peak is surprisingly impressive.
Adorable, isn't it? The baby goat is not shy to strangers.
Awwwwww!!! The baby goat approaches and snuggles next to its mother.
Hopefully we don't run into any more goat jams! Zosia resumes hiking to the top of Scotchman Peak.
Upon reaching the first summit bump which has a surveyor's benchmark, we continued further by dropping down a short gap and scrambling up a second slightly higher bump marked with a cairn.  Unfortunately, a deep chasm prevented us from traversing to a third more distant bump which may or may not be slightly higher.  In any case, the first bump with the benchmark is generally regarded as the gazetted summit of Scotchman Peak, and we were quite content to retreat back to the second bump to take a break.

During our break, the three goats we initially encountered surprisingly appeared on the first bump which was now occupied by some other hikers who had come up behind us.  Curiously, the goats passed the other hikers and eventually joined Zosia and me on the second bump.  I actually hoped that they would continue traversing to the third bump and possibly reveal a secret easy route to get past the chasm.  Instead, they walked slowly in a big circle around Zosia and me before returning to tease the other hikers on the first bump.
The second bump is definitely higher, but I'm not sure about the distant third bump... Zosia stands on the second bump along the summit ridge in this view from the first bump.  A third bump is visible just beyond the second bump.
It works for me! A surveyor's benchmark is located on the first bump (2127 metres) which is the gazetted summit of Scotchman Peak.
Even the goats couldn't traverse to the third bump! Zosia scrambles back up to the top of the second bump after an aborted attempt to traverse to the third bump.

If it's not Scottish, it's CRAP!

Sonny and Zosia stand together at the top of the second bump (2129 metres).


These goats have obviously lost their fear of humans. One of the goats that Zosia and Sonny encountered earlier arrives at the second bump.
Damn! I thought they were gonna show us the easy route to the third bump! Baby goat, papa goat and mama goat make a slow circuit around the top of the second bump.
Despite the presence of the goats, the hikers' dog was remarkably calm. The three goats return to harass the hikers at the first bump.
Both have good trails to their respective summits. Visible to the northwest are Goat Mountain (left foreground) and Bee Top Mountain (distant centre).
Probably very few people ever visit the third bump... The connecting ridge to the third bump is more problematic than it appears here.  Further north at distant left is the peak known as Scotchman No 2.
After this second round of entertainment from the goats, Zosia and I reluctantly left the summit and retraced our steps back down the mountain.  While we enjoyed almost complete solitude during our ascent earlier in the morning, we now encountered numerous parties during our descent.  The majority were still ascending, and Zosia and I were thankful that we had the summit (and the goats) mostly to ourselves.  Upon returning to the trailhead, we promptly drove back to the main highway and eventually found a nice beach along Lake Pend Oreille to cool off and soak our tired feet.
Pend Oreille means "hanging ear" in French. As Zosia begins her descent, Lake Pend Oreille is barely visible in the distance through the haze.
Feels awesome! Zosia dips her feet in Lake Pend Oreille at Trestle Creek Park.
Wanna see mountain goats? Come here! Total Distance:  13.6 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 53 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1054 metres

GPX Data